Friday, 6 May 2022
“As you enter the house of God, keep your ears open and your mouth shut. It is evil to make mindless offerings to God.” - Ecclesiastes 5:1
Book of Ecclesiastes was written by a man with a mind that was painfully full of the disappointing nature of all things viewed apart from God and so ends up telling us to ”Fear God and obey His commands”(Eccl.12:13). The first seven verses of our reading today speak of how to approach God with reverence.
The key verse on entering the house of God is about public worship. It speaks about our conduct in worship and prayer. In the context of the early days of God’s people, they came to the temple to offer sacrifices and also to listen to the Law being read. So the writer says the one who comes to the temple needs to carefully listen and heed to the Law and not come there to carelessly worship and make vows to God and offer sacrifices. This could only turn into ritualistic worship and making mindless vows which sometimes the person may even fail to fulfil.
What does the text have to tell us today? It can point to us the vanity of formal/ritual worship and guide us to engage in prayer and worship that pleases God.
The futility of outward worship
A few characteristics of outward worship are mentioned here-mindless offering, rash promises, hasty words, empty talk. In fact there is a good example in the Old Testament a hasty, mindless unlawful offering made to God by king Saul in 1 Samuel 13 and not heeding to the Command of God in 1Samuel 15. Prophet Samuel tell him thus: “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22).
If one thinks that some form of offering or gift can please God when their hearts are far away from Him, it is vain thinking. God also spoke through Isaiah: “Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me, And their fear toward Me is taught by the commandment of men…” (Isaiah 29:13)
The fruitfulness of true worship
On the other hand, God is delighted in those who offer Him true worship which Jesus spoke of in John 4 to the Samaritan woman: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24). This kind of worship can only be offered by a person who is born-again in his spirit and has the Spirit of God dwelling in him, helping him to worship with a true heart. A person who offers God true worship must have a heart that seeks Him and reveres Him: The Lord says: “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer.29:13). In the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax collector (Luke 18), Jesus says the tax collector who came to God with a humble and repentant heart compared to the self-righteous Pharisee was justified in God’s sight.
God is interested in those who come to Him with reverence and a heart that acknowledges His reign over their lives. Those who draw near to Him with sincere hearts and seek to honour Him by heeding His word and His commands, the Lord will bless them with His constant presence.
May we repent of our carelessness in seeking God and obeying Him. 1 John 1: 9 says: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” Instead let our prayer and worship rise from our hearts in true worship to the eternal living God- the God of our salvation!
To act on: “..let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience..” (Hebrews 10:22)